URC and CanRC hold concurrent classis meetings

CanRC reportsClassis Central US (URCNA) and Classis Manitoba (CanRC) met in Sioux Falls, SD, on April 3 & 4, 2017, marking the first time the two federations held classis meetings concurrently. Delegates from both classes had the privilege of the floor during joint sessions, but did not vote on items of the other classis. Federational-specific matters were presided over by the appropriate chair.

Plans for the meeting began last fall, when Rev. Todd De Rooy (pastor of Redeemer URC in Orange City, IA, and a member of the URCNA’s Committee for Ecclesiastical Relations and Church Unity) contacted Classis Manitoba personnel to determine interest. Then he contacted Rev. Spencer Aalsburg, whose Christ Reformed consistory was slated to convene and host the April 2017 meeting of Classis Central US.

Rev. De Rooy said, “Classis Manitoba agreed to postpone their scheduled March meeting and hold it in April in Sioux Falls, at Christ Reformed Church’s invitation, to be concurrent with our Classis.”

He explained the rationale behind the idea as “excitement” for the anticipated concurrent URCNA Synod and OPC General Assembly in 2018, the “success” of concurrent meetings between Classis Eastern US and the OPC, and a desire “to find the best way for our elders and ministers to have contact with elders and ministers in the Canadian Reformed Churches.”

The close proximity of URC and CanRC congregations in Canada promotes pulpit exchanges and other events that foster fellowship; however, the small number of CanRC congregations within the US makes such ecumenical efforts less viable.

Ministers and clerks of the two convening consistories, Rev. Aalsburg and Clerk Mark Hoogwerf (Christ Reformed Church-URC) as well as Rev. Steve Vandevelde and Clerk Jon DeWitt (Carmen East-CanRC), did much preliminary work to facilitate the event.

Men from both federations worked together to craft a schedule that allowed similar amounts of time for separate administrative sessions and incorporated joint sessions to discuss items of mutual interest on each agenda.

Classis Manitoba not only had to be willing to postpone its meeting, but delegates also had to be willing to dedicate more time to it.

“We were humbled by the willingness of our Canadian Reformed brothers to take the extra time to travel down to meet concurrently with us in Sioux Falls,” Mark Hoogwerf said. “They could have completed their business in a normal meeting that would allow most of their delegates to return home the same day. However, they were very open to making the sacrifice of spending up to seven hours on the road each way to meet in ecumenical fellowship with us.”

Nine Can RC participants traveled in two vehicles the seven hours from Manitoba. But Classis Central US covers such a large area that some of its delegates drove farther. For instance, those from DeMotte drove twelve hours.

Rev. Todd Joling (Faith URC, Beecher, IL) chaired, while Rev. Talman Wagenmaker served as Clerk for Classis Central US. Rev. Rick Vanderhorst (Grace CanRC, Winnipeg) was President, and Dr. Andrew Pol (Carmen West) functioned as Clerk for Classis Manitoba. Rev. Joe Poppe (Redeemer, Winnipeg) served as Vice-President.

Classis convened on Monday evening with delegates from both federations gathering for devotions. Delegates then met separately to deal with administrative matters and reports. This period was followed by a joint session at which representative from the OPC and PCA extended fraternal greetings and a representative from the CanRC reported on mission work in Brazil.

Tuesday morning began with delegates meeting jointly to hear more fraternal greetings and reports. After updates on URC church planting efforts in Chicago Heights, IL, and Quito, Ecuador, delegates approved continued support for those works. They also heard an update on URC Chaplain Rev. Andrew Spriensma.

groupOvertures

URC delegates then dealt with three overtures. The first, submitted by Grace URC of Waupun, WI, requested several changes to Classis Central’s Rules of Procedure. Most of these were “housekeeping” changes, but one suggested that all examinees be required to submit a sermon manuscript for evaluation. All parts of this overture were adopted.

The second overture, from Immanuel URC in DeMotte, IN, suggested that Synod 2018 revise Article 64 of the Church Order to be in line with Synod 2016’s pastoral advice regarding membership departure. The overture would add language about transferring, releasing, or erasing memberships in situations not included in existing Church Order categories. This overture was approved and will be forwarded to Synod 2018.

The third overture, also from Immanuel in DeMotte, asked Synod to adopt a “Marriage Affirmation & Gospel Testimony,” which affirms biblical teaching and addresses concerns raised at Synod 2016. Classis Central US voted to send this overture on to Synod 2018.

Appeal

Following a lunch break, the concurrent meeting entered Executive Session, and Classis Manitoba reported on recent church visits.

Classis Central US then dealt with an appeal from an individual. The consistory had denied his request to pursue revision of the Heidelberg Catechism and Belgic Confession to bring those documents into agreement with statements about the ‘soul’ not being a “thing, but a characteristic/condition of a living body…and that…time in the Bible…is not literal.”

Delegates recognized seven of the appellant’s eleven grounds as valid, but three as invalid, and one as out of order. The decision to deny the appeal as a whole was adopted without dissent. Scriptural grounds were provided at several points of the response and the consistory was affirmed in its position that the confessions accurately reflect biblical teaching regarding the soul.

Although discussion on this matter lasted past the afternoon break, Classis Manitoba met separately after that time. Classis Central went on to appointments and offered pastoral advice regarding discipline matters.

Delegates met concurrently again for closing matters and prayer. Appreciation was expressed to Christ Reformed Church for hosting the meeting.

“We considered it a great joy to be able to host the spring meetings,” Mr. Hoogwerf said. “By God’s grace, numerous members of our small congregation were willing to joyfully serve. We were very grateful for the opportunity.”

Rev. Vandevelde thought he might find Classis Central US “less homogeneous” than Classis Western Canada, which he said “most of us know as ‘the URC.’” While he anticipated more diversity, his impression had been “that Classis US would not be hostile to some potential further organic unity, but more likely indifferent or hesitant, maybe reluctant.” For this reason, he was “keen” to meet URC brothers “face to face.”

Rev. Poppe described the concurrent meeting as “hugely beneficial.” He said, “There was a mutual recognition that we share a common faith, and that we truly are brothers in the Lord.”

He recommends that other classes consider such meetings and seek opportunities for them. Rev. De Rooy offered these thoughts: “All the delegates saw first-hand that the office bearers and churches of our two federations are doing the work of the Great Commission under the same Head of the Church, Jesus Christ, by the same power of the Holy Spirit. Our churches face the same challenges from the inside and the outside of the church. What we discover is that we differ in how we go about doing that work. There was a spirit of brotherly unity in the assembly of the concurrent Classis, and also in the many fellowship times over the two days.”

The subsequent meeting of Classis Central US was scheduled for September 11, 2017, in Waupun, WI, with Grace URC as the convening consistory. Carman West CanRC was slated to convene the next meeting of Classis Manitoba on June 23 or September 22, 2017.

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 8 & 9 of the May 31, 2017, issue of Christian Renewal.

 

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Rev. Jeff DeBoer examined at Classis Central US

Oord-De Boer
Revs. Oord and DeBoer

When Classis Central US met on September 12 & 13, 2016, a significant item on the agenda was the colloquium doctum for Rev. Jeff De Boer. But before that conversation began, a question was raised regarding its necessity. A little background helps explain Rev. De Boer’s path to that moment.

A 2000 graduate from Mid-America Reformed Seminary, Rev. De Boer was ordained in the RCUS and served the congregation in Garner, IA, for seven years before attending law school.

“I realized I lacked the ability to effectively connect with and minister the gospel to people who were not part of the congregation I pastored,” he said. “I’d never been outside the bubble of the Reformed world. So I went to law school to experience a bigger world.”

Although he thoroughly enjoyed his legal education, he began to question his future only a year later, when he received a call to a URCNA congregation. “I did not take the call, but it was the beginning of a great deal of soul searching that resulted in leaving law school.”

While Rev. De Boer was in law school, he and his family attended a PCA in North Liberty, IA, where he occasionally preached. After the church’s pastor resigned and some families left, the congregation expressed an interest in him as its new pastor. The PCA presbytery examined him, he accepted a call to North Liberty, and was ordained in the PCA.

Now employed as Director of Enrollment Management at Mid-America, he and his family attend Community URC in Schererville, IN. His wife, Karen, and their children became members soon after the family moved to the area, and Rev. De Boer assists with preaching and other aspects of pastoral ministry. He also volunteers as a chaplain for the St. John Police Department. The consistory of Community URC brought the request for his colloquium doctum to Classis Central US.

The question regarding the need for an examination was raised because Rev. De Boer’s work at the Seminary seems more administrative than ministerial in nature. Following a discussion that included employment requirements and URCNA emeritation policies, Classis proceeded with the colloquium.

Rev. Nick Alons (Lynwood URC) examined Rev. De Boer in the area of practica. This highly personal section focused on the pastor’s relationship with God and others. Questions additionally sought insight into his qualifications for ministry and his perception of the office. His views on liturgics, homiletics, pastoral care, and evangelism were also addressed.

“After the exam, it was clear to me that he has a real heart for equipping pastors for the rigors of ministry,” Rev. Alons said. “It was also clear that he understands the urgency for mission work to be carried out by the local congregation.”

Other examiners included Rev. Bradd Nymeyer (Sioux Center URC) on church polity, Rev. Tom Wetselaar (Immanuel URC; DeMotte, IN) on confessional knowledge, Rev. Harold Miller (Covenant Reformed; Kansas City, MO) on ethics, and Rev. Doug Barnes (Covenant Reformed; Pella, IA) on reformed doctrine. Rev. De Boer successfully sustained his colloquium doctum and was declared eligible for call within the URCNA.

Community URC has called Rev. De Boer as Associate Pastor, viewing him as on loan to Mid-America and the St. John Police Department. The consistory oversees his work and encourages his continued participation in church life.

“He is very active in our church,” said Rev. James Oord, pastor of Community URC. “Rev. De Boer has already been working with our church to develop a program where each seminarian who attends Community is paired with an older, experienced man for one-on-one mentoring. He serves as a member of our Discipleship Committee and is currently teaching a Sunday School class on ‘The Art of Neighboring.’ ”

Rev. De Boer recently became the St. John Police Department’s first chaplain under its newly-instituted program. Having found it rewarding to serve as a police chaplain in North Liberty, Rev. De Boer volunteered for similar work in St. John.

The Department sees the new chaplain program as a link in its efforts to unite the community and police, through participation in some events and provision of necessary assistance. Chaplains also provide counseling and comfort to officers and families experiencing crisis.

“Most of my work will be with the officers,” Rev. De Boer said, “although there will also be occasional, public functions.”

Rev. De Boer’s responsibilities at Community URC may continue to develop.

We are exploring ways to grow this role, always respecting his time commitment and calling to Mid-America,” Rev. Oord said. “We see Rev. De Boer as being very gifted in the areas of discipleship and evangelism and we hope that he can be an encouragement and blessing to our church culture in those areas.”

In addition to conducting the colloquium doctum for Rev. De Boer, Classis Central approved three overtures. Two from Sioux Center URC dealt with synodical procedure and will go to Synod 2018. The first recommended the addition of an Appendix 7 to the Church Order, which would provide guidelines for appeals. The second overture suggested adopting a classical rotation for hosting synods, which takes into account two recently-added classes.

The third approved overture, from Immanuel URC in DeMotte, established a classical church assistance fund. Similar to funds in other classes within the federation, the Classis Church Assistance Fund (CCAF) will provide assistance at the discretion of Classis to churches requesting financial support. Requests for assistance must be made in writing, but will not be published publicly. Individual churches determine their level and frequency of contributions, designating them for the CCAF.

Delegates advised several churches on discipline matters. One case not discussed in executive session sought advice to “exclude” a member, a newly-formed category in Pastoral Advice subsequent to the 2016 Synod. Because the new categories are not yet part of the Church Order, Classis eventually suggested the church move toward the second step of discipline instead.

One advice request questioned whether a member, not licensed to exhort in the URCNA, may exhort in a non-NAPARC church. This led to a discussion regarding the way licensure relates to exhorting in churches that do not belong to NAPARC.

Rev. Sam Perez informed delegates about the Grace Reformed church plant in Jersey City. Rev. Ruben Sernas introduced himself and spoke about his work with El Pacto de Gracia, the church plant in Chicago Heights, IL.

Delegates heard fraternal greetings from Rev. G.I. Williamson (Presbytery of the Dakotas of the OPC), Rev. Brian Janssen (Iowa Presbytery of the PCA), Rev. Jonathan Haney (Midwest Presbytery of the RPCNA), Rev. Herman Van Stedum (South Central Classis of the RCUS), and Mr. Jacob Kuik (Classis Manitoba of the CanRC).

This was the first time Sioux Center URC hosted Classis in its building. Rev. Spencer Aalsburg (Christ Reformed Church; Sioux Falls, SD) chaired the meeting, and Rev. Todd Joling (Faith URC; Beecher, IL) served as vice-chairman. Rev. Talman Wagenmaker functions as Classis Clerk.

Christ Reformed Church in Sioux Falls was slated to convene the next meeting of Classis Central US on April 3, 2017.

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 12 & 13 of the November 20, 2016, issue of Christian Renewal.

Second man called to teach full-time at Divine Hope Reformed Bible Seminary

 

Rev. Nathan Brummel and Rev. Ken Anema
Rev. Nathan Brummel and Rev. Ken Anema

When Classis Central US of the URCNA convened on September 15, 2014, the primary item on the agenda was the colloquium doctum of Rev. Ken Anema, who served Messiah’s Independent Reformed Church in Holland, MI, for almost 21 years and recently began teaching inmates through Divine Hope Reformed Bible Seminary.

A requirement for that position is affiliation with a NAPARC-member church, and Immanuel URC in DeMotte, IN, had requested the colloquium doctum in order to receive Rev. Anema—like Rev. Nathan Brummel—as an associate Minister of the Word and Sacraments in the URCNA, on loan to Divine Hope.

Delegates voted to conduct each section of the exam for 20 minutes, with the exception of Reformed Doctrine, which was kept at 40 minutes. Throughout the examination, participants emphasized its nature as a “doctrinal conversation.” Examiners demonstrated respect and amity, while Rev. Anema responded with thoughtful and articulate answers evidencing humility and theological acumen.

As Rev. Todd De Rooy questioned him about his personal and spiritual life, Rev. Anema testified how God had been preparing him for teaching at the Seminary. He related that as a young, single man, he initially aspired to foreign missions. But after the Lord closed that door, he’d realized his lack of experience and wisdom for foreign mission work. Instead the Lord provided a wife—after he’d been in the ministry for a year—and a strong group of elders who helped him develop good study habits and mentored him for more than 20 years.

Rev. Anema spoke about his work at a rescue mission with men who have been in and out of jail and how he had begun with a “more arrogant, condescending approach,” but “the more I got to know them, the more I realized that these are real life people who are not that different from us.” A wise person once told him that we are all “only one or two bad decisions away from them.”

Although the move from Michigan to Indiana had been “unsettling literally and metaphorically,” he said, “I continue to grow, continue to look to Jesus as my Savior, and continue to rely on the Spirit.”

When asked to state his expectations for teaching at the Seminary, Rev. Anema responded that he has learned in his ministry not to develop expectations but how “God very graciously gave me encouragements along the way.”

Rev. Doug Barnes, Rev. Talman Wagenmaker, and Rev. Jacques Roets
Rev. Doug Barnes, Rev. Talman Wagenmaker, and Rev. Jacques Roets

He said, “I know that God, by his grace and his mercy, will certainly bless the work. We have a little slogan at the Seminary: Theological education for moral transformation.” He hopes and trusts that “God will begin to change the environment in the prison” and “change the lives of men.”

Questioned about loving the unlovable, Rev. Anema replied, “This is somebody who has been made in the image of God. Who am I to look down on them?”

His response to how he would answer a pre-teen’s question about Jacob Arminius clearly revealed his ability to express complex theological issues in simple terms.

The independent status of Rev. Anema’s former church was the basis for a question if his perspective regarding ecclesiastical federation had changed or if he sought URCNA membership simply due to his new position. Rev. Anema answered by challenging the assumption that his former congregation was isolationist and didn’t benefit from ecclesiastical fellowship, describing several ways it participated in events and ministry with other churches.

The Ken and Renee Anema family
The Ken and Renee Anema family

Delegates quickly agreed that Rev. Anema had sustained his exam. Because he is originally from Sanborn and attended Mid-America Reformed Seminary while it was in its Orange City location, many relatives and friends witnessed his examination. He and Renee have three children: Noah, Faith, and Liberty.

Another major item on the agenda was a report from Classis Central’s Church Plant Advisory Committee (CPAC), which recommended guidelines for church planting in an effort to increase cooperation and effectiveness among the churches through shared wisdom and resources.

While nearly every speaker expressed appreciation for the report, concerns were raised regarding what some delegates viewed as its occasional vagueness or its centralization tendencies.

Eventually Rev. Jacque Roets moved to recommit the report to the committee, saying, “We have a history that makes us suspicious of working together. I do believe this is very necessary, but we have to think carefully about how to move forward.” The motion to recommit was adopted.

Redeemer URC
Redeemer URC

Rev. John Vermeer encouraged the churches to submit their suggestions for improvements to CPAC, and Rev. Harold Miller suggested the Committee confer with the new URCNA Missions Coordinator.

Classis did, however, formally thank the consistory of Immanuel URC of DeMotte for its work supervising CPAC. It also requested that the classical and federational clerks send inquiries about planting churches to CPAC. Delegates additionally directed the classical webmaster to revise the Classis website’s church planting page so that inquiries about church planting within the Classis Central region are sent to CPAC as well as to the federational Mission Committee.

Because the report was recommitted, CPAC required funding to continue its work. The consistory of Immanuel URC brought forward a budget, which Classis approved.

Fraternal delegates speaking at Classis Central included Rev. G.I. Williamson (OPC Presbytery of the Dakotas), Mr. Keith LeMahieu (OPC Presbytery of the Midwest), Rev. Maynard Koerner (RCUS South Central Classis), and Rev. Jonathan Haney (RPCNA Midwest Presbytery).

Rock Valley URC will convene the next meeting of Classis on April 13, 2015.

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 8 & 9 of the October 15, 2014, issue of Christian Renewal.

URCNA Classis Central US: Sets up church planting advisory committee

From a cloudless sky, the sun shone on the extensive and freshly mown lawn of Covenant Reformed Church when Classis Central met in Kansas City, MO, on April 10-11, 2012.

The Classis agenda was rather light and became even lighter as one overture for possible consideration was not taken up and an overture to establish a pulpit supply schedule as a resource for vacant churches was tabled indefinitely. Those overtures are likely to come before Classis at its next meeting.

The most important action of Classis Central US was its adoption of Immanuel URC’s overture to establish a classical committee to distribute information on existing church plants and advise member churches regarding potential plants.

Although the voice vote was too close to determine and Chairman Harold Miller called for a show of hands, the motion to adopt the overture carried by a slim majority. The division arose not from delegates being opposed to church planting, but rather from a desire that the proposal be more thoroughly fleshed out prior to its adoption as well as a concern regarding the possibility of a classical committee usurping a local consistory’s authority.

Elder Dave Troup, Covenant-Kansas City, expressed the latter fear, saying, “Anything that places a committee over our consistory will probably be voted down by our consistory.”

Speaking in favor of the overture, Rev. Jacque Roets, Redeemer-Dyer, IN, noted that Classis Central is “a study really of wasted resources” and “it would work so much better if we would pool what we’ve learned.” He added, “A committee on this level will help us; it’s there to aid us in working together.”

Rev. Bradd Nymeyer called the overture’s lack of recommendations regarding funding “an oversight” and noted the necessity for such provision.

In the most colorful comments of Classis, Rev.Spencer Aalsburg (Sioux Falls Reformed Fellowship) compared the committee’s formation to a couple’s discussion regarding having children.

“If we don’t want to have kids, let’s say it now,” Rev. Aalsburg said. “If we do, let’s at least begin talking about it.” 

Immanuel’s overture asks Classis Central US to appoint a Church Planting Advisory Committee of at least five elders/ministers for three-year terms with a mandate to:

1. Regularly gather and distribute information in one comprehensive report about church plant works in Classis Central US, including their financial needs.

2. Provide advice and recommendations to the churches on potential church plant locations in Classis Central US.

3. Develop “Classis Guidelines for Church Planting” covering the planning, commencement, funding, and oversight of church plants and submit the “Guidelines” for approval by the churches of Classis Central US.

4. Provide regular reports of its work to a consistory designated by Classis.

Classis asked the Immanuel delegates to consult with their consistory regarding its willingness to serve in a supervisory capacity and to determine, in consultation with other consistories in Classis Central, the names of elders or ministers willing and able to serve on such a committee. Classis additionally asked Immanuel to provide recommendations regarding funding and to report all these matters to the next meeting of Classis Central in September. It is hoped that the composition of the committee as well as specific funding directives can be determined at that time.

MISSION COMMITTEE REPORT

Some concerns similar to those voiced about a classical committee were expressed about the synodically appointed Missions Committee, whose report will come before Synod 2012. Grace URC in Waupun requested permission to discuss its concerns, but before that was granted there was a lengthy debate regarding the proper venue for discussion of matters still to come before the federation’s deliberative body. Since there is a lack of established protocol, there was some difference of opinion among the delegates.

Rev. Keith Davis (Lynwood,IL) said that his church’s elders had not yet discussed this matter and, therefore, its delegates could not represent the consistory accurately.

Rev. Doug Barnes (Hills, MN) noted that the material has been available to consistories for some time and, with only eight weeks prior to Synod, it would be helpful to consider the matter together.

While Rev. Nymeyer remarked about being blessed by informal discussion of the report, he said he felt “conflicted” about formal discussion, noting that it will come before an advisory committee prior to coming to Synod. “I speak against discussion at Classis,” he said. “The proper venue is not Classis.”

Eventually Classis approved no more than 30 minutes of discussion. Classis actually spent more time discussing whether or not to have the discussion than in the discussion itself, which ended with eight minutes to spare in its allotted time frame.

Later in the meeting, Classis allowed Rev. Jody Lucero, Clerk of the Missions Committee, 15 minutes to briefly respond to concerns and answer additional questions from the delegates. He assured delegates that the Committee’s purview would be informative, not deliberative.

“The Missions Committee would have no teeth by which to enforce giving in any local congregations,” he said. “There has been no authority given to this committee whatsoever. I think that’s a legitimate fear, but I believe we were careful to avoid that.” He added that this was an effort to provide “more information, more knowledge” so that elders will have necessary assistance and churches will become “more excited about spreading the gospel.”

OTHER BUSINESS

Prayer characterized this meeting of Classis Central. As usual, prayer followed reports from fraternal delegates and church visitor reports as well as reports on church plants and chaplain efforts; however, a new feature of the agenda was a time for church reports, each of which were followed by meaningful prayer for the four reporting churches: Wellsburg URC, Rock Valley URC, Immanuel URC in DeMotte, IN, and Covenant Reformed in Pella, IA.

Fraternal speakers were Rev. Wade Mann (Midwest Presbytery, RPCNA), Mr. Bill Gortemaker (Classis Manitoba, CanRC), Rev. Joe Vusich (South Central Classis, RCUS) and Mr. Keith LeMahieu (Presbytery of the Midwest, OPC).

Several church visitor reports were received, one of which generated a motion later in Classis to encourage churches to follow Synod Escondido’s directives regarding retirement and disability provisions for ministers. After some discussion, that motion was tabled.

Revs. John Vermeer, Talman Wagenmaker, Bradd Nymeyer, and Harold Miller

In addition to the usual CECCA, CERCU, and Classis website reports, delegates heard reports on the work of church plants in Sioux Falls and Prinsburg as well as an update on the Hispanic ministry in Chicago Heights. A report on Chaplain Spriensma, currently in Germany, noted his possible deployment to Afghanistan in the near future.

Classis was chaired by Rev. Harold Miller (Covenant-Kansas City) assisted by Rev. Talman Wagenmaker (Grace-Waupon, WI) serving at his first meeting as Clerk of Classis. Rev. John Vermeer (Oak Glen-Lansing) was Vice Chairman. Elder Don De Boer (Cornerstone-Sanborn, IA) submitted his Classis Treasurer’s report.

This was the first meeting of Classis Central at which delegates stood to indicate their agreement with the Form of Subscription, as opposed to first-time delegates coming forward to sign. Rev. Miller explains that the change in dealing with the Form of Subscription came by way of overture to the previous meeting of classis and “was intended to give a more tangible, visible, and edifying expression to our already robust unity.”

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on page 12 of the May 2, 2012, issue of Christian Renewal.

URCNA Classis Central sustains candidate, passes songbook overtures

When Classis Central US met at Covenant Reformed Church in Pella, IA, on September 12 & 13, 2011, its agenda and atmosphere were lighter than recent meetings.

Business included finishing a candidacy examination and dealing with a four overtures, three dealing with a federational songbook.

Aaron Verhoef flanked by his parents, Harry & Linda, and his mother-in-law, Nancy Martin

On Monday evening, Classis conducted the biblical exegesis portion of Aaron Verhoef’s candidacy exam. Mr. Verhoef had successfully sustained all other sections of his examination in April. Rev. Todd Joling (Faith URC; Beecher, IL) asked Aaron pointed questions about Hebrew and Greek translations as well as the exegetical method he used in preparing sermons on the assigned texts. In private session, delegates discussed his submitted sermons. The consistory of Covenant Reformed Church judged that Mr. Verhoef sustained his exam and Classis concurred. Should he receive a call within Classis Central US, his ordination exam will be waived.

The pre-meeting agenda included three overtures. One dealt with procedure regarding the signing of the Form of Subscription at Classis meeting, while the others related to a federational songbook. Delegates voted to consider an additional overture regarding the songbook from Lynwood URC, which had been received one day late, since the deadline to submit overtures to the federational committee is October 31.

Delegates considered all overtures on Tuesday morning. A seven-page overture from Hills URC detailed suggested changes in the proposed hymnal. Rev. Vermeer (Oak Glen URC; Lansing, IL), who had assumed the chair while Chairman Rev. Aalsburg (Sioux Falls Reformed Fellowship) presented the overture, cautioned delegates against getting “bogged down in details,” particularly since the body still needed to discuss two additional overtures regarding the proposed hymnal. He noted that if he sensed delegates were going “down a hole that we cannot climb out of,” he would suggest striking a committee to unify the overtures and bring recommendations back to the body during the current session.

Although Rev. Aalsburg initially proposed taking the overture’s recommendations one at a time, Rev. Jacques Roets moved to consider the overture as a whole.

“Some of us here may be equipped to go through this overture piece by piece,” he said, “but some of us are not equipped to do this. I trust that the people who presented the overture felt strongly about these things and we can adopt this overture and pass it along to the committee.”

That overture from Hills URC was adopted. A five-page overture from Lynwood URC also contained suggested changes to the proposed hymnal. When Rev. Davis presented it, he explained that its background closely echoed the background of the Hills overture. Although there were similarities between the lists in the two overtures, there were also some differences. Rev. Talman Wagenmaker (Grace Reformed Church; Waupun, WI) suggested striking “O Master, Let Me Walk with Thee” from the list of hymns recommended for inclusion in the new hymnal.

“The author was very much in the social gospel camp,” he explained. “There is nothing specifically Christian about this song; nothing about the Redeemer.”

The vote to strike passed by 14 to 8, perhaps the only vote during Classis calling for a show of hands. Once the overture was amended by striking this hymn from the inclusion list, the overture passed. As mandated by Synod London 2010, these two overtures now go to the federational committee.

A short overture from Covenant Reformed Church in Kansas City, MO, suggested changing the Church Order to include language regarding a “federational songbook.” That overture failed to reach the floor due to lack of a second.

Another overture from Kansas City, however, fared better. It suggested changing classical procedure to bring Classis in line with synodical practice with regard to delegates affirming the Form of Subscription. Instead of requiring first-time delegates to come forward and sign the Form, the Form would be read and delegates would rise to indicate their agreement with it.

Questions were raised concerning the practice of other federations and how late arrivals would be handled. Rev. James Sinke (Rock Valley URC; Rock Valley, IA) moved an amendment to strike Grounds 3 & 4 of the overture.

“I fear Grounds 3 & 4 speak against the very spirit of the overture itself,” he said. His motion to amend by striking those grounds carried.

The question of late arrivals was solved when Rev. Vermeer moved an amendment to insert the language from the rules for synodical procedure into the overture. That motion to amend carried. The overture as amended was then adopted. Classis procedure regarding delegates’ assent to the Form of Subscription will now be the same as that of Synod.

Elder Mark Vander Molen (Immanuel URC; DeMotte, IN) informed the brothers of the recent formation of a Board of Directors for the Divine Hope Reformed Bible Seminary. The Seminary will utilize material provided by Rev. Allen Vander Pol through Miami International Theological Seminary (MINTS) and will function within the walls of the Danville, IL, prison. He requested prayer as the Board of Directors seeks to hire a Director to oversee the program, preferably an ordained URCNA minister.

Rev. Todd Joling (Faith URC; Beecher, IL) reported that Chaplain Andrew Spriensma and his wife Michelle were blessed with their third child in August, and that the family will relocate this winter from Ft. Jackson in Georgia to East Bauten Airfield in Germany. Chaplain Spriensma is being reassigned to East Bauten prior to deployment next summer. The family requests prayer.

Delegates also heard reports on church plants within Classis Central US as well as several church visitor and ecumenical reports. Rev. Lee Johnson, an RCUS minister from Lincoln, NE, conveyed fraternal greetings from his denomination.

At this meeting of Classis, Rev. Spencer Aalsburg served as Chairman, Rev. John Vermeer as Vice Chair, and Rev. Doug Barnes served his final session as Clerk. His second term expires at the end of October. Rev. Talman Wagenmaker was elected to replace him as Stated Clerk of Classis and Rev. Dan Donovan was elected as Alternate Clerk, both pending approval of their respective consistories. When Rev. Aalsburg expressed the appreciation of Classis for Rev. Barnes’ six years of service, delegates rose to give Rev. Barnes a standing ovation.

Rev. Bradd Nymeyer was re-appointed to another term as Church Visitor. Rev. Doug Barnes was elected as Church Visitor.

Although several churches requested confidential advice from the body regarding discipline and pastoral issues, two matters were discussed in open session. Lynwood URC sought the advice of the body in dealing with Rev. Philip Tjoelker’s ministerial credentials. Subsequent to Lynwood’s decision to close the Providence church plant in Tinley Park at the end of 2010, Rev. Tjoelker had received an opportunity for church planting work with the Reformed Episcopal Church. Lynwood was advised to proceed with their actions in sending Rev. Tjoelker’s credentials to the Reformed Episcopal Church.

Rev. Jody Lucero (Providence Reformed Church; Des Moines, IA) shared news from the synodically appointed committee regarding missions. After researching the mission and evangelism efforts of other NAPARC federations, the committee intends to propose to Synod Pompton Plains in 2012 that the URCNA form a missions committee to facilitate more cooperation, more giving, and more prayer. The proposed committee would include a minister or elder familiar with missions or church planting from each of the seven URCNA classes, while an ordained minister would serve as a full-time coordinator who chairs the committee.

The next meeting of Classis Central US will be convened by Covenant Reformed Church in Kansas City, MO, on April 10, 2012.

The above is a slightly edited version of an article by Glenda Mathes that appeared on pages 11-12 of the October 5, 2011, issue of Christian Renewal.